Dan Wilt

On Epiphany: The Manifestation

Featuring Dan Wilt Posted on December 29, 2017

What Is Epiphany All About?

“How does the church express the spirituality of being with Christ in his incarnation, manifestation to the world, death, resurrection, ascension, and coming again? How can we as members of the church participate in a present spirituality that is rooted in past events and anticipates a future event? The answer to this question is that we are shaped and formed spiritually by Christ in the church through a worship that continually orders the pattern of our spirituality into a remembrance of God’s saving deeds and the anticipation of the rule of God over all creation.

…The Christian year represents the historical unfolding of the life of Christ and his sure return. One may observe that Advent deals with the coming of Christ; Christmas, his birth; Epiphany, his manifestation to the Gentiles; Lent, his journey toward death; the Great Triduum, the last days of Jesus’ earthly life; Easter, the time to celebrate his resurrection; and Pentecost, the time to experience life in the power of the Holy Spirit. According to this historical representation of the life of Christ, the Christian year begins with Advent and ends with Pentecost.” (from Robert Webber, Ancient Future Time, p. 31)

When we consider the patterns through which we as human beings live our lives, we must always remember that we are creatures of both repetition and memory. In other words, to lose the rhythm of repetition is to quickly forget a story, an idea, a hope - no matter how life-changing it may be. Rhythm and repetition therefore become servants of worship, servants of devotion and vital components of both ancient and contemporary expressions of communion with God. Rhythm and repetition keep vital ideas ever before us - and the arts of worship are often the most profound vehicle for transmitting those ideas across generations.

This is true in the celebration of what we call the church holiday of Epiphany. This holiday officially falls on Jan. 6th, and propels us through the Epiphany season all the way to the beginning of Lent - and the great festival of Easter.

The Epiphany season celebrates the manifestation of Jesus as the Savior of not only the Jews, but also of the Gentiles. It goes beyond this to convey Jesus rescuing work as a gift to all humanity and the cosmos in which we live.

It is a season for us to remember that God can be known, interacted with, enjoyed and embraced due to His supreme selfrevealing in Jesus. Epiphany remembers the “appearing” (the literal meaning of the Greek word epiphanian) of God in Jesus Christ, and recalls the story of the Magi as a primary source text for reflection. The Epiphany season then leads us into the world of Judaism at the time of Jesus baptism and the declaration of his role as the Holy Spirit lights on him. The Wedding Feast at Cana, the calling of the disciples, the Transfiguration - all of these passages reflect the amazing reality that God has stepped into our world as the “Word made flesh,” and opened the doorway to intimate union with His people.

Epiphany-centered spirituality delivers to us not only a season to reflect on Jesus’ manifestation to us as the living Son of God, but also on our vocation to be a people who manifest God’s nature in the world. Epiphany is a season of calling the people of God to embrace the Light shining around us, shining in us, and inviting us into the shadows of this world as ambassadors of the New Creation.

The manifestation of God in Christ, propels us to manifest Christ in us. We are no longer purposeless, mission-less, or without direction in this life. On the contrary, we bear the gifts of Jesus’ new creation activity every time we care, feed, love, forgive, reconcile, deliver, pray and sing. We are signs, emblems proclaiming that “God is near” in a world that feels He is distant from their everyday concerns.

An Epiphany Prayer

An Epiphany Prayer from The Book Of Common Prayer leads us before God with a sense of calling and vocation to manifest his love to the world we know. “Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the good news of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of His marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.”

In Church history, Epiphany has also been called the Illuminatio, the Manifestio and the Declaratio (Illumination, Manifestation and Declaration). Jesus indeed came to illumine for us the way to be truly human, to manifest the glory and goodness of God in our midst, and to declare the year of the Lord’s favor to we who “walked in the shadow of death.” For more contemporary reflections on Epiphany, read the late Robert Webber’s excellent book, Ancient Future Time, from which many ideas in this synopsis are drawn.

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